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The Hon Dr Mike Kelly AM MP
Parliamentary Secretary for Water

Improving water planning in northern Australia

Media release
21 September 2009
MK 11/2009

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The Parliamentary Secretary for Water, Dr Mike Kelly, today announced $1.785 million in funding for two new projects that contribute to the body of scientific knowledge being compiled to help government, industry and communities make informed decisions about sustainable water resource use and management in northern Australia.

Dr Kelly said, “The $1 million Northern Australian Water Futures Assessment Ecological Program which aims to provide a better understanding of the key water-dependent ecological assets across northern Australia and the risks to those assets arising from hydrological changes.

“History tells us that it is far easier and more cost-effective to protect high conservation value healthy river and groundwater systems such as those in Northern Australia through effective management systems, rather than to attempt to remediate them once damaged.”

The Northern Australian Water Futures Assessment is being delivered jointly by the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts and the National Water Commission. The objective of the Assessment is to provide an enduring knowledge base to inform decisions about development of northern Australia's water resources, so that any development proceeds in an ecologically, culturally and economically sustainable manner.

The project will comprehensively trial the draft national High Conservation Value Aquatic Ecosystems framework to identify and classify these valuable ecosystems across northern Australia.

Dr Kelly said, “A further $785 000 will be used to fund the Northern Australia Land and Water Taskforce Work Plan, which will establish principles and guidelines for the sustainable development of northern Australia.

“This project will explore a range of development scenarios and land use change activities, and their effect on critical sustainability criteria.”

The Northern Australia Land and Water Taskforce is a high-level independent group of Australian experts drawn from broad areas, including indigenous, business, science, conservation, agriculture, and the minerals and energy resource industries. The Taskforce is examining the potential for new developments in northern Australia that rely on significant local or regional water resources and is consulting with stakeholders in the north to identify opportunities for further development.

The National Water Commission has funded these projects under its Raising National Water Standards Program. Project details are available on the National Water Commission website at http://www.nwc.gov.au/www/html/347-introduction-to-rnws.asp .

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